Top 20 Memorable America's Next Top Model Photoshoots

VOICE OVER: Emily - WatchMojo
In the world of professional modeling, these were the most memorable “ANTM” photoshoots. For this list, we've selected the most entertaining and outlandish photo shoot moments of Tyra Banks's 22-cycle run on this American reality television series and interactive competition. Our countdown includes drag queens, bald is beautiful, seven deadly sins, and more!
In the world of professional modeling, the camera reveals both stars-in-the-making and major personal struggles. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Memorable America’s Next Top Model Photo Shoots.

For this list, we’ve selected the most entertaining and outlandish photo shoot moments of Tyra Banks’s 22-cycle run on this American reality television series and interactive competition.

#20: Wild Boyz & Girlz

“The Girl Whose Boyfriend Is Cheating on Her”

During Cycle 5, the models receive a variety of surprises. First, there’s the glamorous Hollywood Hills location. Then, MTV’s Wildboyz show up for the “entourage gone wild” theme. With Nadia Pandolfo behind the camera, many of the girls are distracted by the moment, as the guys actually show more skin and personality than the models. Well, except for Lisa D’Amato, who feels right at home with the boys and steals the show by showing up in a diaper. When Lisa takes a public pee, her pee-rs realize that they’re dealing with some formidable competition: a model who is arguably MORE wild than the Wildboyz.

#19: Scared Guppies

“The Girl Who Is a Model, Not a Masseuse”

In Thailand’s Floating Market, the Cycle 6 models all share a special fragrance: fish. They’re literally flipped upside down, seemingly more concerned with not falling over than Jaturong Hirankarn’s camera and direction. For this shoot, the girls are once again forced to adapt on the fly, as they try oh-so-hard to maintain their model mojo, instead of looking like scared guppies. The concept is fishy, along with Jay Manuel’s feedback. While models often manage to smile through difficult shoots, the pain was real during this Thai production.

#18: Candy-Coated

“The Girl Who Cries All the Time”

During this Cycle 8 shoot, the girls expose themselves to photographer Joseph Cultice. But it’s a tasteful concept, as they’re partially covered with candy. Some girls are uncomfortable with the idea, and for good reason, while others fully embrace their edible personal accessories. As a result, it’s a memorable shoot for all the polarizing reactions, and how a select few showcase their fabulous shapes and personalities. Jaslene has no problem with her “dulce le leche” look, and it’s this type of poise that helped her win the entire competition.

#17: Up the Ladder

“The Ladder of Model Success”

For this Cycle 11 shoot with Mike Ruiz, the “America’s Next Top Model” competition reaches a new dimension. The models don’t actually seem fazed by the Hot Air Balloon concept, but the idea is eventually scrapped because of some windy weather. Rather than dangling from the sky, the contestants stay closer to earth. Some bring their A-game, while others struggle with their ladder mojo, even the model-turned-mainstream-actress Analeigh Tipton. The revised idea is more basic than the original, and the shoot is a mixed bag of poses, with a few memorable exceptions.

#16: Hakuna Matata

“The Girl Who Is Rushed to the Emergency Room”

Near the end of Cycle 6, the contestants arrive in beautiful Thailand and meet an enormous yet “gentle” elephant. For this Venus razors project, Pongsak Tangtiwaja snaps the photos, and the girls hilariously try to be graceful alongside their rough-skinned friend. At times, it’s not entirely clear which model is more nervous, beauty or beast, yet the contestants do seem to appreciate the unique opportunity. It’s a nerve-wracking photoshoot, but one that looks amazing when it’s all said and done. For this jungle production, America’s Top Models are truly in touch with nature.

#15: Adams & Eves

“The Girl Who Overslept”

In the Cycle 2 premiere, Tyra surprises the contestants by returning them to their natural state. In collaboration with Fresh Look contact lenses and the show’s own Nigel Barker, the shoot begins badly when Jenascia fails to wake up for work. Yet, the gig must go on. Fortunately for the models, there are plenty of Adams to complement the Eves, resulting in a revealing and exotic photoshoot. But it’s the behind-the-scenes drama that makes it a classic, as the contestants clash with each other and their photographer.

#14: Underwater with Matthew Rolston

“Matthew Rolston”

Early on in Cycle 15, Tyra’s beauties pose with some underwater uglies. For this shoot, the contestants are super excited to work with the iconic Matthew Rolston, making them a little more at ease for the sea creature shoot. Jay pulls some Jedi mind tricks by suggesting the models are in “the club”; and it somehow works, as the contestants bring their best. For this shoot, there’s some extra energy on set, as the photographer has a special way of connecting. Just when everything seems on point, though, some petty complaints ruin the vibe. Still, it’s one of the more focused “Top Model” shoots.

#13: A Top Model Horror Story

“The Girl Who Changes Her Attitude”

For this macabre shoot, photographer Mike Rosenthal seeks high fashion with a dark concept. It’s an original idea, but a horrific one, too, and the premise leads some contestants to a real dark place. For the most part, though, the models have fun and fully immerse themselves into the vibe. This is a different way to challenge the contestants mid-way through the season, and it toughens them up for the final leg of the cycle. Furthermore, it suggests that aspiring models should be ready for anything, even it terrifies them.

#12: Drag Queens

“The Girl Who Takes Credit”

After styling themselves in this Cycle 8 episode, the contestants receive some light-hearted criticism from Jay Manuel. But, it’s merely a set-up for a gender-bending shoot with photographer Richard Reinsdorf, as the models take on male personas and pose with actual male drag queens. Some of them overthink the premise and struggle with the direction. Overall, though, it’s one of the more comedic Top Model photoshoots, if only because the contestants are challenged to view themselves differently and mostly have fun with their new personalities.

#11: Welcome to the Circus

“The Girl Who Joined the Circus”

In Cycle 8, photographer Mike Rosenthal memorably directed a crime scene shoot. But one cycle previously, he provoked the contestants – and viewers - with a photographic circus. Shortly before the shoot, Tyra discusses hopes and fears, educating each model about the demanding world of high fashion. During the shoot, the contestants forget about their insecurities and lock into Circus Mode. The presence of Seventeen Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief inspires them even more. Hey, the modeling business can be like a real-life circus, so this playful desert shoot was the perfect way to prepare – and motivate – the talent.

#10: Landfill Couture

“Lana Marks”

While the average girl might be skeptical of a landfill photo shoot in Orange County, it all made sense during cycle 16 of “America’s Next Top Model.” With a trip to Morocco in sight, the remaining contestants first had to demonstrate their ability to wear the graceful garbage couture of Michael Cinco. As photographer Nigel Barker articulated, some of the girls proved to be unpredictable wildcards, and given the circumstances, it’s not hard to understand why. But on the flipside, the strongest models embraced the unique, eco-friendly couture and set their eyes on the prize.

#9: Fuerza Bruta

“If You Can’t Make It Here, You Can’t Make It Anywhere”

To succeed in an industry like this, models must put all their troubles behind them and break through that wall, so to speak. And in cycle 10, the contestants were stripped down raw for a wet shoot in the style of the off-Broadway show “Fuerza Bruta.” Photographed by Mike Rosenthal, this particular shoot highlighted models that struggled mightily with their approach. In fact, Claire took a literal headfirst approach. Even so, the experience made for great TV, and the most successful women found organic and flowing ways to execute their poses.

#8: Bloody Baths

“America’s Next Top Vampire”

After somewhat of a failed CoverGirl Clean commercial in cycle 14, the contestants reached… the dark side. For this gothic shoot, Tyra enlisted photographer Sarah Silver, but the group did not seem entirely thrilled about the focal set piece: a bathtub full of blood. But with the whiteout contact lenses presenting more difficulty than anything else, the women learned to feel the essence of the shoot rather than submitting to the inherent horror. And once certain contestants found their groove and embraced the professional guidance, they rose above the bloodbath and positioned themselves for a positive final judgment.

#7: Bald Is Beautiful

“The Girls Go Bald”

Early on in cycle 6, the contestants trembled with anticipation as a collective head-shave loomed before them. Alas, the group was not destined to have bare heads, although they did learn that bald IS beautiful. After an extensive makeup process, each woman found different ways to enhance her look, while a select few looked more like extraterrestrials rather than top models. But therein lies the challenge when your facial façade is drastically altered, and with the addition of some Swarovski crystals, these models were bald, beautiful, and blinging. Well, most of them.

#6: Mongolian Warriors

“The Girls Go To The Great Wall”

Near the conclusion of cycle 9, the models traveled to China and learned a poignant history lesson on the “Four Great Beauties.” And then came a literal wall, as in “The Great Wall of China.” This, in itself, can be stressful, and with Tyra Banks herself guiding the shoot, well, it was a telling moment. Posing as Mongolian warriors, the contestants mostly transcended their fear by figuratively crossing one of the world’s greatest pieces of architecture. Thanks to some helpful and creative direction by photographer Tyra, this proved to be one of the more successful shoots in “ANTM”’s history, and was certainly one of the most epic.

#5: Greek Salad

“Nikos Papadopoulos”

By the time the contestants reached the island of Crete in cycle 17, a giant bowl of Greek salad had to be conquered for a spot in the finale. And with the acclaimed Nikos Papadopoulos taking the shots, the remaining models didn’t exactly conquer said bowl, despite the striking and vivid imagery of the location. In fact, Shannon actually refused to mix it up in lingerie. But when in Greece, one does not simply avoid the Greek salad. And when it was all said and done, the elimination was a relatively easy decision.

#4: Biracial Beauties

“Let’s Go Surfing”

We had to include this in our list of most memorable shoots, even if it’s an entry we’d rather forget. For this cycle 13 challenge, Tyra encouraged contestants to embody various ethnicities and nationalities. It was a stunningly tonedeaf display that included blackface and racial caricaturizations of all kinds, and wasn’t even the first time the show had done this. While we normally prefer to celebrate the talented models in this show, this challenge goes down as a grim reminder of how our standards of beauty are not free from the legacy of systemic racism.

#3: Diamonds & Tarantulas

“The Girl Who Is Panic-Stricken”

Just over halfway through cycle 3, the relatively young reality series presented a serious obstacle for the “American’s Next Top Model” beauties. And no, it wasn’t the Verragio Diamonds. It was the live tarantula, of course, as even the most focused of models would, or should, be concerned about a gigantic furry spider draped across their face. But hey, Toccara showed little fear. However, it was she that was eventually sent packing while the frightened Eva went on to win the entire competition. Shot by Bill Diodato, this photo shoot showed potential contestants what they might have to overcome and endure.

#2: Seven Deadly Sins

“The Girl Who Gets Bad News”

With only seven contestants left in cycle 4, the girls were to convey the 7 Deadly Sins in an 8-foot grave under the direction of photographer Johann Wolf. And in the process, one particular model received some distressing news. Forced to confront the death of her friend AND a cemetery photoshoot, Kahlen overcame the adversity and produced one of the more unique shots in the series’ history. And though the creative aesthetic was a bit creepy, it was Kahlen’s perseverance that made this a most unforgettable photo shoot, with “Wrath” looming over the entire production.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Steampunk Fashion
“The Girl Who Gets Pwn’d”

Couture for the apocalypse

Bullfighting in Spain
“The Girl Who Grates”

To see who could be the most Matador-able (read like “adorable”)

Hello Kitty Couture
“Georgina Chapman”

Kawaii to the max

Exotic Birds
“Take Me To The Jungle”

We see the models spread their wings

Martial Artists
“Petite Ninja Warriors”

The models fight for their spot in the competition

#1: Snakes!

“The Girl Who Gets Rushed To The Emergency Room”

In the first cycle of “America’s Top Model,” there was literally no series precedent for the contestants to study. And so, when photographer Troy Ward referenced a special guest model, the girls probably anticipated a human being rather than a collection of slimy and slithering snakes. For the most part, the shoot turned out well, but this was a telling moment as the series progressed forward. Because if an aspiring model can’t handle a snake among a team of professionals, she or he probably can’t handle the business as a whole, and certainly not as America’s next top model.